Quick and Easy Orecchiette with Chickpeas

orecchiette with chickpeas and olives
Nothing is easier or more convenient than making a one-pan dish for dinner! I found this recipe last year in a Martha Stewart Living Magazine. By changing a few ingredients to my personal liking, I made a delicious and easy pasta dish that was ready in 30 minutes. Best of all, I only had one pan to clean afterwards!

I love this pasta dish because it’s light, healthy and bright with the fresh arugula and lemon zest. The chickpeas add a nice nutty flavor and give you that protein boost to keep you full longer. Although this is a vegetarian dish, you could always add your favorite meat, such as Italian sausage or ground beef. Sliced mushrooms also add a great umami flavor to the dish! The original recipe includes olives which would give a salty flavor; however, I chose to omit them because I’m not a huge fan of olives.

Be sure to give this recipe a try for your next lunch or dinner! Continue reading

Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage

baked ziti
Who doesn’t love baked ziti? Pasta, fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese bubbling on top…yum! I found this amazing recipe on the Food Network and made a few tweaks of my own. What I love about this dish is that it’s perfect for a large group because everything is baked in one dish AND you can prepare it ahead of time. I recently made this for a dinner party and the ability to prepare ahead of time was a definite plus. I made the sauce the day beforehand and stored in the refrigerator. I boiled the pasta and mixed with the sauce and cheese a few hours before serving.  Then transferred everything to a baking dish and covered with foil. All I had to do was pop the dish into the oven 30 minutes before serving. I ended up having more time to mingle with my guests and have a few cocktails myself. 😉 Continue reading

Squash ‘Carbonara’ with Pancetta and Sage

squash carbonara

I absolutely love this recipe from bonappetit. What a healthy, delicious and clever twist on a classic pasta dish! This ‘carbonara’ recipe is much lower in calories and fat than the traditional recipe because it does not have any heavy cream, eggs or butter. But don’t fret – it does not lack in flavor either! The sauce has a natural creaminess from using pureed butternut squash – so clever, right?! Obviously, nothing can ever replace the taste of heavy cream and butter, but this squash substitute will certainly satisfy your taste buds. I made this dish for Michael, a carbonara connoisseur ;-), and he loved it. The crispy pancetta and light sprinkle of Parmesan go a longgggg way! Continue reading

Easy Rigatoni Bolognese

rigatoni bolognese
Nothings says comfort food better than a big bowl of pasta bolognese topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Sure, you can go to your local Italian restaurant and order this dish, but who knows what quality of ingredients are used? Or how much oil or calories are in the dish? We all want a delicious, homemade meal where we can control the quality of ingredients and fat content, but not everyone has hours before dinnertime to simmer a pot of this meat sauce. That’s why I came up with this quick and healthy recipe that takes no time to prepare. You’ll have all the delicious flavors of a bolognese sauce in 45 minutes!

This is my take on the classic – I hope you enjoy! :) Continue reading

Penne with Steak and Spinach

penne with steak and spinach
This is my new favorite pasta dish! Not only is it quick and easy to make, but the flavors of the steak and dressing are so good! It’s also a great dish to make for dinner parties or larger groups because it can be served hot, warm or at room temperature. You also get your protein, carbs and veggies all in one convenient dish. It doesn’t get better than that!

I stumbled upon this recipe one day while watching Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network. Giada used arugula in her recipe, but I used spinach because the store was out of arugula the day I went shopping. I think either one works very well with the dish. Arugula adds a nice spicy flavor while spinach is much milder. You can choose either one based on your own preference.   Continue reading

St. Martin

Michael and I decided to go on a post-Thanksgiving beach vacation this year. The Caribbean has many islands to choose from, but we decided on St. Martin because of its French influence, secluded hotels and availability of nonstop flights from New York. Although the Dutch side of the island caters more towards tourists (i.e. number of casinos, clubs, shops), we stayed on the French side because it’s much more secluded and the restaurants and shops seem to be a touch more upscale. In other words, the Dutch side simply reminded me too much of college students on spring break. Get my drift?!

The resort we stayed at was perfect. We had our own private beach and a beautiful infinity pool. Because we traveled during the low season, we practically had the entire resort to ourselves! Their beachfront restaurant, C Le Restaurant, couldn’t be more romantic. Imagine yourself sipping a glass of crisp white wine while taking in the beautiful sunset. Ahhhh, I wish I were there again :).

L1050425The Japanese inspired octopus and squid salad at C Le Restaurant was so good! They cooked the octopus and squid perfectly. The seaweed salad was such a nice complement because it added a crunchy texture to the dish. Most importantly, the dressings were the perfect balance of sweet, spicy and tart flavors. Everything you would typically find in an Asian dish ;).

A trip to St. Martin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Grand Case, the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean. We dined in Grand Case a few nights, but our ultimate favorite restaurant was Il Nettuno. OMG, hands down, they have the best pasta in town. I just might go there and say they are better than any Italian restaurant I’ve eaten at in New York. One thing is for sure, their view of the ocean and sunset is better than any restaurant in New York! All of their pasta is homemade, and their sauces L1050441are simply amazing. Even their basic marinara sauce was full of robust flavors – you could really taste the fresh tomatoes, herbs and spices. I had their Tagliatelle “Al Dente” fresca ai frutti di mare. They loaded the dish with fresh scallops, mussels, shrimp and squid. The sauce tasted like it had been simmering for hours, with just the right amount of spiciness. Continue reading

Easy Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

An oldie but a goodie! Perfect for dinner this fall.

Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese, especially when it’s home-made? I’ve tried many mac and cheese recipes in the past and have found a few that are amazing; however, they do take some time to prepare and bake. That’s why this easy pumpkin mac and cheese is my new favorite recipe! Not only does it have healthy nutrients from the pumpkin, but it’s so quick and easy to make. Plus, the pumpkin puree adds a rich creaminess to the dish so you don’t have to use that much cheese, which means less calories!

I was inspired to make this dish one night while watching Rachael Ray make a mac and cheese using butternut squash. My mouth was literally watering while watching the show. Needless to say, I wanted to make mac and cheese for dinner, but I didn’t have any butternut squash. The only thing I did have was canned pumpkin puree. So, I decided to wing it and make the dish using pumpkin puree and a few other substitute ingredients. I also kicked up the spiciness of the dish by adding red pepper flakes. The result? An awesome pumpkin mac and cheese!  Continue reading

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

I discovered this recipe during my quest to find a baked pasta dish that wasn’t lasagna or baked ziti. No offense to either of those dishes (I love them both), but I wanted to make a pasta dish that didn’t include any meat or tons of ricotta cheese. I was watching the Food Network Channel one day and saw an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada. She made it look super easy to prepare and so yummy! So I decided to give it a try.

Michael was a little skeptical the first time I made this dish because there wasn’t any meat in it; however, he was pleasantly surprised after taking a few bites. There are just so many different flavors in the dish, ranging from the herbs de Provence in the roasted vegetables to the melted smoked mozzarella, that your taste buds are surprisingly satisfied. After playing around with the recipe a few times, I made a few tweaks to make it even more perfect for my own taste buds :). I portioned the recipe to make about four “normal” servings; however, Michael and I nearly finished the dish after one sitting ;). The leftovers taste even better the next day, but you can definitely separate the pasta into two portions before baking. Simply put one portion in a baking dish for today and freeze the other portion in an airtight container to bake another day. Continue reading

Fettuccine with Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil and Pecorino

I absolutely LOVE tomatoes, especially when they are cooked with pasta. So when I saw this dish on the menu at Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, I knew it was a must try. Boy, was I in for a treat! The fettuccine tasted homemade and was cooked perfectly al dente. The heirloom tomatoes were so sweet and still had a bite to them. The most interesting part, however, was the use of lemon verbena. I’ve only had lemon verbena in tea, but never in an actual dish. Just a few of these leaves added a wonderful citrusy, bright, and refreshing taste to the Pecorino’s sharpness. It was truly the perfect combination. Continue reading